The News & Observer reports that when faced with questions about why the Senate included a provision in its budget proposal that would end retirement health care for future teachers and state employees, some Senate leaders wouldn’t talk.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, who chairs the Pensions, Retirement and Aging Committee, said he couldn’t comment on the proposal because it came from the Senate’s top budget writers – not his committee. And Sen. Harry Brown, one of the chamber’s lead budget writers, walked away from a reporter without speaking when asked about the change.
Calls from N.C. Policy Watch to Senators Brown and Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) also went unanswered as we worked on a story last week highlighting the budget provision, which would eliminate state-paid health retirement benefits for teachers and state employees who are hired after January 1, 2016.
Senator Phil Berger’s office did talk to the N&O, however.
“North Carolina has a massive $26 billion unfunded liability for retiree medical coverage, and the Senate budget is a prudent way to address the long-term viability of the State Health Plan,” said Shelly Carver, a spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger.
Chuck Stone, lobbyist for the State Employees Association of NC (SEANC), told the N&O (as well as Policy Watch) that the Senate’s plan isn’t the way to go.
“Once you take [the health retirement benefit] away, what incentive is there to work for the state?” said Stone. “We are in a rush to have the worst State Health Plan coverage in the United States of America.”